May 18

Discussion vs. Ear-Piercing Debate Online

Social Media is a crazy place for deabate

Twitter can be a harsh place. I get responses daily to my tweets that might make your hair rise on end. Here’s the most negative tweets – unfiltered – I got in a random week (April 21-28, simply the week before I wrote this intro):

  • “As the False Prophet, he [Pope Francis] will be one of the greatest deceivers in human history.”
  • “No matter how u twist & turn & contort the English language there are no rational religious beliefs.”
  • “Councils (Trent) were of Holy Spirit? Was the torturing & murder of 75 million people of Chirst?”
  • “The real problem is that JEWS decide which media personalities get fired for making the “wrong” statements.”
  • “Apparently, your collar doesn’t make you bright.”
  • “Mr. Pontifex takes a breath of fresh air, awaiting the arrival of his Muslim masters.”
  • “Isn’t she [Elizabeth II on her 90th birthday] the queen of freemasonry?… She’s had time to convert, hopefully b4 she dies.”
  • “and the church suddenly has an interest in science? Figures, it’d be pseudo science #propaganda”
  • “Allah The Most Gracious The Most Merciful The Only One True God Has Saved Jesus Christ.”
  • “Another shameless photo op” [referring to Francis hearing confessions in St Peter’s Square]
  • “I am sorry the education system has failed you so thoroughly.”
  • “#ProLife activists like @FrMatthewLC will be happy. Vote for #Trump! Back to middle age in a few months.”
  • “that could only have been written by someone who isn’t in a loving relationship where you give yourself completely lovingly.”

I’m sure many of you have noticed how online there tends to be more ear-piercing debate then honest and thoughtful discussion. People even made jokes about the YouTube comments section as a place to find the lowest dregs of humanity. Instead of narrowly talking about Twitter or YouTube, I want to address online discussions in general. I want to look at the philosophy that divides us, how technology enables negativity and yelling, and a few ways we can respond.

Read more on Catholic Stand…

May 02

Clearing Our Heart for Love by Remembering God’s Mercy

Remembering God's MercyRemembering God’s Mercy is one of those rare books that combines personal testimony, theological insight, sound psychology, and prayerfulness all-in-one. Along with reading, I used this book for meditation for a week or two. It’s an amazing book that has to be comprehended as by whole chapters and not by lines. When I read a book, I often look for “pull quotes” I can use in preaching or post online, and despite being excellent, this book doesn’t specialize in that. Instead there’s a reflection over the course of four or five pages that awakens you to some new light but that light can’t be summarized in one line.

Dawn is a former reporter for several rock and roll publications and, obviously, a convert. She has suffered immensely in her life both from others – including childhood sexual abuse – and from her own sexual liaisons; so, I think her voice is particularly good for reaching those in our society who are hurting. Doctor Eden – okay, she got her doctorate just after writing this book – had previously written a book on healing from sexual abuse but expanded this to a much wider healing in this book, focusing on healing our memories. Dawn points us to go back to our memories before we were hurt and this led me to ask when you talk what to do if someone has a disability or a pain from birth so they have no memories prior to their suffering. I hope she writes a book on that in the future. Nonetheless, her current book is helpful all who’ve suffered, even for those of us who have not suffered major trauma in our life.

She begins by acknowledging the need people have both of psychological and spiritual help: “There is been a growing recognition in recent years that those of us who suffer the effect of painful memories need more than just psychological help. Therapy can help us cope, but if you’re true to break free from the grip of past pain, we need spiritual help.” (ix) Then she brings out how Pope Francis speaks of prayer as memory: “Prayer for me is always a prayer full of memory, of recollection, even the memory of my own history…” (4) Her reflections throughout the book follow up on those lines.

Her vision is very incarnational, based on the sacraments which is noteworthy which describes Eucharist and confession. “I do not only bring my soul to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist; I bring my body as well.” (14) “The sacrament of reconciliation helps me deal with the effects of sin in all its facets where my own sincere concern, sacramental confession does more than erase them. It leads me to examine where my sinful impulses are coming from and gives me the grace to fight those impulses when they reappear.” (108) She also shows this incarnational view when talking about how Pope Francis “travels in patience.”

There are other points one could touch on but those stood out to me. If you have suffered – and we all have – I would recommend this book. It helps us reflect on our own experience so that we don’t deny it but live properly once we acknowledge it.

Apr 27

Solutions for the Moral Crises of Every Day

What's a Person to Do?

This is a review of What’s a Person to Do?: Everyday Decisions That Matter by Mark S. Latkovic (OSV, 2013).

Instead of talking about the big hot button moral issues like abortion, transgender rights, the death penalty or gay marriage, Dr Latkovic has decided to write a book with 40 questions on moral issues that a good Catholic might face every day. Some examples include laughing at a dirty joke, deciding on teenage children’s cell phone use, tattooing, working “under the table,” and speeding. I think this book is important because our goal as Christians is not simply to avoid big horrendous sins, but to grow in virtue until we imitate Christ fully. He calls this a “faith ethic” which is directed towards “Attaining true human happiness, not just observing what some see as a collection of your rules, of do’s and don’ts.” (23) Very few of the issues he talks about our politicized so he can discuss morality without appearing to take sides – this leaves him much more freedom to really investigate the questions rather than just argue his side’s point of view.

Mark is good at making distinctions. For example, when asking how much of houses flaws when needs reveal when selling, he points “Distinctions between lying, deception, withholding information, and concealing information.” (42) The last two may not be wrong. Thus he suggested a homeowner is obliged never to lie or deceive – thus asking them to reveal major flaws – but leaves some onus on the buyer for investing the house – so the seller need not mention every little detail like the toilet leaks. Then he lists the legal obligations from a real estate website.

This book is written for Catholics who are already following Church teaching as he does not ask the question is contraception moral but only asks how one should respond when it is suggested by a primary care physician. In this restriction has a very clear definition of contraception: “To contracept, one has to the following two actions: (1) freely choose to have sexual intercourse, and then one has to (2) do something to that sexual Congress to block procreation.” (100)

I took one small point with one paragraph in the book where he said we should never buy things from stores like Victoria’s Secret. I would agree that we should avoid as much as possible but a woman once asked me about a concrete situation where it was legitimate: she said that she would have sore shoulders if doing a certain activity except with a bra from VS – and even though she was disgusted with other aspects of the company, she felt no way to get around without a severe discomfort. I told her it was fine before reading the book and when I messaged Dr. Latkovic with this exception he seemed to agree.

Overall, I would recommend this book although many readers may want to just pick out a dozen of his forty questions to read write and read it cover to cover.

Disclaimer: Dr Latkovic was a professor of mine at a summer class on another topic last summer and gave everyone in the class this book for free.

Apr 25

Cleansed: Overcoming Pornography Issues with Jesus


Pornography is a huge addiction in our society: ripping way the innocence of children, stripping teens of a realistic expectation of sex, driving boyfriends and girlfriends into sex prematurely, deadening marriages, afflicting all ages, and destroying families. Marcel LeJeune has dealt with this scourge in his ministry and has written one of the most complete guides on breaking free from a Catholic perspective. I recently read through Cleansed: A Catholic Guide to Freedom from Porn and was impressed.

LeJeune has some clear opening chapters describing pornography and the situation before he jumps into ways to overcome it. He begins with a definition: “Pornography is material that portrays suggestive behavior in order to arouse sexual desires and reactions.” (8) Marcel cleary opposes the Christian and pornographer’s view of sex: “No amount of fear tactics or negativity can sway someone away from porn once that person has been using it for a while. Rather than peddling what is bad, we need to focus on the beautiful and positive message of Christ has given us about sex. Sex can be a beautiful and amazing act if we choose to use it in the manner God intended.” (14)

He admits, as I would agree, that the Church has been slow to respond to this and unfortunately the church’s reasons seem out of date to most people today. The only thing I think was unnecessary in these introductory chapters was explaining the history of Christianity’s view of contraception: it is important to link contraception with pornography in the sense that both promise “consequence-free” sex which takes sex outside of a committed relationship, normally marriage, but talking about the Lambeth Convention and Humanae Vitae seemed more of an interesting sidenote than focal for his topic. He does point out how the marital act should be about the other person – “I love you. I want to spend the rest my life with you and have children with you” – not about oneself – “I want to have sex with you.” (37)

The center of this book is Chapter 4 where he gives 18 strategies to stop and overcome pornography. Five are worth repeating here:

  1. Get rid of porn and easy ways to access it.
  2. Find an accountability partner.
  3. Practice fasting.
  4. Learn to overcome temptation.
  5. Redeem thoughts of temptation rather than trying to suppress them. Offer them to Jesus.

Two other strategies that he has implicitly but I think are also important and which I’ve blogged (when I emailed these to Marcel, he liked them):

  1. Don’t Say “No,” Say “Yes” to Something Else.
  2. Understand the virtue of chastity and consciously view others as persons not objects.

Then he rounds out the book talking about other aspects of pornography and Catholic morals. Most of it is pretty straightforward virtue ethics, prayer and sacramental life with an emphasis of recovering it after recovering from pornography. I particularly liked how he shows our desires for pornography are really hidden desires for Jesus: “Porn will never satisfy. It always leaves is demanding more. It will never bring us to happiness and peace were looking for. Jesus always satisfies and only asked us to give him our hearts.” (70)

Despite a few flaws like three pages dedicated to the history of the morality of birth control and not being explicit about two strategies I think are important in fighting pornography, this is still by far the best full-length book on the topic I’ve seen.

Apr 09

The Hermeneutic of Continuity vs. the Hermeneutic of Suspicion

682px-Papa_BenedettoToday there is a lot of confusion about what Pope Francis wrote yesterday in Amoris Laetitia. I think a lot of it goes back to a principal that was mostly eliminated by Benedict XVI in his 2005 Christmas addressed to the Roman Curia, the hermeneutic of continuity. This is the hermeneutic to view all the Church’s teaching throughout the years in a continual sense of growth rather than in divisive and rupturing stages. In 2005, he was appliance specifically to the varied interpretations of Vatican II but I think it applies equally to interpreting Pope Francis. We need to read Francis in the light of tradition, a light that Benedict expressed so well.

Benedict said that the hermeneutic of discontinuity or rupture separates the Church before and after the council. This hermeneutic assumes where the council was going, and claims “the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises [in the actual documents] but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.” Benedict claims that such a hermeneutic misunderstands the basic nature of the Council. This hermeneutic is ultimately based on a false secular hermeneutic called the hermeneutic of suspicion.

On the other hand, he talks about a hermeneutic of continuity or of reform, which he calls the correct hermeneutic. In explaining this hermeneutic, he quotes several lines from John XXIII given to set down the mission of Vatican II: “to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion,” but ” not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us.” This hermeneutic sees the entire council in light of previous teachings in accord with them but seeking to reform their expression both in words and in pastoral practice.

If we apply the same hermeneutic to all that Pope Francis has said or done, we see an attempt to reach new people but no change in the doctrine of the Church. Francis has called for certain new emphases in our pastoral mission but has never contradicted the pastoral rules laid out by his predecessors. One clear example is how a great many people on either side have read Francis permitting communion for divorced and civilly married individuals into Amoris Laetitia. The only way you can read it in his with a hermeneutic of suspicion, a hermeneutic of discontinuity. If we read it with a hermeneutic of continuity or reform, we might see a different tone, a point that was skipped over, or some development but we do not see anything against the previous magisterium of the Church. Just like Vatican II, Francis has developed the Church’s ideas in new directions without contradicting the established ideas.

Both Francis-lovers and Francis-haters can tend towards a false hermeneutic: one to say that it’s great that the Church has changed, and the other to say that it’s horrible that the Church has changed. The point of the hermeneutic of continuity is that the Church never makes breaks but slowly reforms and converts herself, heading towards truth, which is not simply an idea but the person of Jesus Christ.

If you want to read it, but are short on time, read the key quotes I drew from the whole document.

Apr 08

Key Quotes from Amoris Laetitia: About Every Family Not Just Divorced and Civilly Remarried

Amoris LaetitiaNews reports focus on a few paragraphs of Francis’s new document, Amoris Laetitia, namely 242-243, 250, and 298-305, yet this is but a small part of the document. Instead, I want to give you a medium-length summary of the whole document using quotes and paraphrase.

Amoris Laetitia doesn’t seem to have any radical new ideas but following the Church’s tradition: most of the theological arguments go back to John Paul II’s thought which was based on Vatican II, and we could continue back to Jesus himself. There are several direct antecedents which are quoted extensively throughout: Gaudium et Spes, from Vatican II, 48-51; John Paul II’s Theology of the Body; John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio, and the final relations of the 2 synods. Francis develops these documents but never brings them up to contradict them (skipping certain paragraphs of the 2 synod relations could be seen as disagreement but could also indicate Francis doesn’t see them as important).

Francis’s goal seems to be to present a positive view of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family. He starts with the Biblical foundation, spends half of chapter four meditating on St Paul’s hymn of love, and ends with a call to family prayer. Chapter 5-7 provide positive initiatives the Church can do to help marriage and the family. Only chapter 8 deals with specific tricky situations, like the divorced and civilly remarried, and even this needs to be seen in the context of the rest of the document.

I have decided to put paragraph numbers at the beginning of each quotation or slightly before if I summarize something leading up to the direct quotation. I have chosen also to simply put one quote / idea per paragraph and thus most paragraphs are very short. I note if Francis is quoting some source directly in parentheses at the end of the paragraph rather than in a footnote because footnotes don’t work well on websites.

Francis begins the document: “The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” This gives his positive approach to the issues he carries throughout.

1: In the Light of the Word

Like any good theology, Francis contextualizes all he will say in the Biblical metanarrative that gives us meaning. He wants to locate these as primarily Gospel reflections and only secondarily reflections on the current state of affairs.

Paragraph 10 seems to follow up John Paull II’ Theology of the Body: “The majestic early chapters of Genesis present the human couple in its deepest reality.”

15: “We know that the New Testament speaks of ‘churches that meet in homes.’ A family’s living space could turn into a domestic church, a setting for the Eucharist, the presence of Christ seated at its table.”

18: Jesus goes against the tendency of the ancient Near East to view children “as subjects without particular rights and even as family property.” Instead, he presents them as teachers, from their simplicity. This is part of a Christian vision of the family.

Paragraph 30 refers to specific problems like refugees and poverty basing them on looking “to the icon of the Holy Family of Nazareth.”

2: The Experiences and Challenges of Families

Switching ends, Francis talks about the specific issues families face today in their concrete circumstances. He doesn’t take the view of liberation theology that circumstances are a theological source (locus theologicus) but he wants to meet families where they are.

31: “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and that of the Church.”

33: “Equal consideration needs to be given to the growing danger represented by an extreme individualism which weakens family bonds and ends up considering each member of the family as an isolated unit.” (quoting: Relatio Synodi 2014, 5.)

35: “As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or [because of] moral failings.”

38: “We must be grateful that most people do value family relationships that are permanent and marked by mutual respect.”

38: “Many are touched by the power of grace experienced in sacramental Reconciliation and in the Eucharist, grace that helps them face the challenges of marriage and the family.”

39: Francis sees a “Culture of the ephemeral” in “the speed with which people move from one affective relationship to another.”

39: “Narcissism makes people incapable of looking beyond themselves, beyond their own desires and needs.”

40: “We live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future.” (quoting: Address to the United States Congress (24 September 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 26 September 2015, p. 7.)

41: “Cultural tendencies in today’s world seem to set no limits on a person’s affectivity” (quoting: Relatio Synodi 2014, 10.)

43: “One symptom of the great poverty of contemporary culture is loneliness, arising from the absence of God in a person’s life and the fragility of relationships.” (quoting: Relatio Synodi 2014, 6.)

44: “Families and homes go together. This makes us see how important it is to insist on the rights of the family and not only those of individuals.”

46: “The persecution of Christians and ethnic and religious minorities in many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, are a great trial not only for the Church but also the entire international community.”

47: We must give attention to “families of persons with special needs, where the unexpected challenge of dealing with a disability can upset a family’s equilibrium, desires and expectations… Families who lovingly accept the difficult trial of a child with special needs are greatly to be admired. They render the Church and society an invaluable witness of faithfulness to the gift of life.”

57: “I thank God that many families, which are far from considering themselves perfect, live in love, fulfil their calling and keep moving forward, even if they fall many times along the way.”

3: Looking to Jesus: The Vocation of the Family

Instead of beginning with dry doctrine to explain the Church’s teaching, Francis focuses on the vocation or calling of individuals to join in families. This vocation is an individual’s call of love from God, the other spouse, and ultimately from one’s children.

58: “In and among families, the Gospel message should always resound; the core of that message, the kerygma, is what is ‘most beautiful, most excellent, most appealing and at the same time most necessary.’” (quoting: Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 35: AAS 105 (2013), 1034.)

59: “Our teaching on marriage and the family cannot fail to be inspired and transformed by this message of love and tenderness; otherwise, it becomes nothing more than the defence of a dry and lifeless doctrine.”

61: “Contrary to those who rejected marriage as evil, the New Testament teaches that “everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected” (1 Tim 4:4). Marriage is “a gift” from the Lord (1 Cor 7:7).”

64: “The example of Jesus is a paradigm for the Church…” Then Francis goes on to point out where he joined family life in the Gospels such as Cana, Peter’s house, Martha and Mary, and suffering families. (quoting: Relatio Finalis 2015, 41.)

68: Francis points out how Humanae Vitae “Brought out the intrinsic bond between conjugal love and the generation of life” in number 10 while Karol Wojtyla (future John Paul II) focused on Humanae Vitae 12 where the subjective reasons are given. (quoting: Relatio Finalis 2015, 43.)

72: “The sacrament of marriage is not a social convention, an empty ritual or merely the outward sign of a commitment.”

73: “Mutual self-giving in the sacrament of matrimony is grounded in the grace of baptism, which establishes the foundational covenant of every person with Christ in the Church.” (quoting: Relatio Finalis 2014, 21.)

Paragraphs 85 and 87 show a mutual relationship between families and the Church – each are goods for the other.

85: “The Church is called to cooperate with parents through suitable pastoral initiatives, assisting them in the fulfilment of their educational mission.” But she must always recognize their primacy in raising their kids.

87: “In virtue of the sacrament of matrimony, every family becomes, in effect, a good for the Church.” (quoting: Relatio Finalis 2014, 23.)

4: Love in Marriage

This chapter is a profound meditation on the meaning of love and its application in Christian marriage. If a man or woman is to read any part of the document, I would recommend this chapter: for reading, for meditation and for classes on marriage.

89: The Gospel of marriage is incomplete without love. “All that has been said so far would be insufficient to express the Gospel of marriage and the family, were we not also to speak of love.”

Paragraphs 92-93 talk of patience as an active not simply passive virtue when related to love.

92: “Being patient does not mean letting ourselves be constantly mistreated, tolerating physical aggression or allowing other people to use us.”

93: “The word [translated “kind”] is used only here in the entire Bible. It is derived from [the Greek word for] a good person, one who shows his goodness by his deeds. Here, in strict parallelism with the preceding verb [patience]. Paul wants to make it clear that ‘patience’ is not a completely passive attitude, but one accompanied by activity, by a dynamic and creative interaction with others.”

97: “Those who love not only refrain from speaking too much about themselves, but are focused on others; they do not need to be the centre of attention.”

99: “To love is also to be gentle and thoughtful. [The Greek word] indicates that love is not rude or impolite; it is not harsh.”

100: The term “antisocial” here refers to being against societyand using others not just “asocial” – Spanish distinguishes these two words better. This is not a condemnation of us introverts. “Antisocial persons think that others exist only for the satisfaction of their own needs. Consequently, there is no room for the gentleness of love and its expression.”

102: “It is more proper to charity to desire to love than to desire to be loved” (quoting: Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 27, art. 1, ad 2.)

105: “Once we allow ill will to take root in our hearts, it leads to deep resentment.”

107: “Today we recognize that being able to forgive others implies the liberating experience of understanding and forgiving ourselves.”

108: “If we accept that God’s love is unconditional, that the Father’s love cannot be bought or sold, then we will become capable of showing boundless love and forgiving others even if they have wronged us.”

116: “Love hopes all things. Love does not despair of the future.” It shows us we can change and bring about a better future.

120: “Conjugal love… the love between husband and wife… is an ‘affective union,’ spiritual and sacrificial, which combines the warmth of friendship and erotic passion, and endures long after emotions and passion subside.”

122: “There is no need to lay upon two limited persons the tremendous burden of having to reproduce perfectly the union existing between Christ and his Church, for marriage as a sign entails ‘a dynamic process…, one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God.’” (quoting: John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 9: AAS 75 (1982), 90.)

126: “Marital joy can be experienced even amid sorrow; it involves accepting that marriage is an inevitable mixture of enjoyment and struggles, tensions and repose, pain and relief, satisfactions and longings, annoyances and pleasures, but always on the path of friendship, which inspires married couples to care for one another.”

128: “Love opens our eyes and enables us to see, beyond all else, the great worth of a human being.”

130: “Few human joys are as deep and thrilling as those experienced by two people who love one another and have achieved something as the result of a great, shared effort.”

131: Marriage is public because it is a leaving home to build a new life co-responsibly with another. “Marriage is a means of expressing that we have truly left the security of the home in which we grew up in order to build other strong ties and to take on a new responsibility for another person. This is much more meaningful than a mere spontaneous association for mutual gratification, which would turn marriage into a purely private affair.”

132: “To opt for marriage in this way expresses a genuine and firm decision to join paths, come what may. Given its seriousness, this public commitment of love cannot be the fruit of a hasty decision, but neither can it be postponed indefinitely.”

Paragraph 137 gives practical advice, especially for men: “Take time, quality time. This means being ready to listen patiently and attentively to everything the other person wants to say… Often the other spouse does not need a solution to his or her problems, but simply to be heard, to feel that someone has acknowledge their pain, their disappointment, their fear, their anger, their hopes and their dreams.”

143: “Desires, feelings, emotions… all have an important place in married life. They are awakened whenever ‘another’ becomes present and part of a person’s life.”

146: “If passion accompanies a free act, it can manifest the depth of that act.”

Emotional maturity in a family helps all the members grow, decide & take on big projects.

146: “A family is mature when the emotional life of its members becomes a form of sensitivity that neither stifles nor obscures great decisions and values, but rather follows each one’s freedom.”

149: “Married couples likewise respond to God’s will when they take up the biblical injunction: ‘Be joyful in the day of prosperity’ (Ec 7:14).”

150: “Sexual desire is not something to be looked down upon.”

152: “In no way, then, can we consider the erotic dimension of love simply as a permissible evil or a burden to be tolerated for the good of the family.”

153: “Sex often becomes depersonalized and unhealthy; as a result, ‘it becomes the occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts.’” (quoting: John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae (25 March 1995), 23: AAS 87 (1995), 427.)

156: “Every form of sexual submission must be clearly rejected.”

158-162 emphasize the value of non-married vocations for the Church.

158: “Many people who are unmarried are not only devoted to their own family but often render great service in their group of friends, in the Church community and in their professional lives… Their dedication greatly enriches the family, the Church and society.” (quoting: Relatio Finalis 2015, 22.)

159: “Virginity is a form of love… It is also a reflection of the fullness of heaven.”

161: “Virginity and marriage are, and must be, different ways of loving. For ‘man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him.’” (quoting John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979), 10: AAS 71 (1979), 274.)

164: “We love the other person for who they are, not simply for their body. Although the body ages, it still expresses that personal identity that first won our heart. Even if others can no longer see the beauty of that identity, a spouse continues to see it with the eyes of love and so his or her affection does not diminish.”

5: Love Made Fruitful

This seems to be a continuation of the meditation of chapter four, focusing on marriage, bringing it into the practical realm of raising children in a family.

165: “Love always gives life.”

166: “The family is the setting in which a new life is not only born but also welcomed as a gift of God.”

166: “The gift of a new child, entrusted by the Lord to a father and a mother, begins with acceptance, continues with lifelong protection and has as its final goal the joy of eternal life.”

167: “Large families are a joy for the Church. They are an expression of the fruitfulness of love.”

Abortion is never an option, while adoption and foster-care are encouraged.

170: “Some parents feel that their child is not coming at the best time. They should ask the Lord to heal and strengthen them to accept their child fully and wholeheartedly.”

170: “A child is a human being of immense worth and may never be used for one’s own benefit. So it matters little whether this new life is convenient for you, whether it has features that please you, or whether it fits into your plans and aspirations. For ‘children are a gift. Each one is unique and irreplaceable… We love our children because they are children, not because they are beautiful, or look or think as we do, or embody our dreams. We love them because they are children. A child is a child.’” (quoting: Catechesis (11 February 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 12 February 2015, p. 8.)

174: “Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centred individualism… It is they who testify to the beauty of life.” (quoting: Catechesis (7 January 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 7-8 January 2015, p. 8.)

176: “In Western culture, the father figure is said to be symbolically absent, missing or vanished. Manhood itself seems to be called into question. The result has been an understandable confusion.”

178: “Marriage was not instituted solely for the procreation of children… Even in cases where, despite the intense desire of the spouses, there are no children, marriage still retains its character of being a whole manner and communion of life, and preserves its value and indissolubility.” (quoting: Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 50.)

179: “Adopting a child is an act of love, offering the gift of a family to someone who has none.”

180: “The choice of adoption and foster care expresses a particular kind of fruitfulness in the marriage experience, and not only in cases of infertility… They make people aware that children, whether natural, adoptive or taken in foster care, are persons in their own right who need to be accepted, loved and cared for, and not just brought into this world.”

186: “The Eucharist demands that we be members of the one body of the Church. Those who approach the Body and Blood of Christ may not wound that same Body by creating scandalous distinctions and divisions among its members.”

193: “The lack of historical memory is a serious shortcoming in our society.”

196: “The love between husband and wife and, in a derivative and broader way, the love between members of the same family… is given life and sustenance by an unceasing inner dynamism leading the family to ever deeper and more intense communion, which is the foundation and soul of the community of marriage and the family.” (quoting: John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 18: AAS 74 (1982), 101.)

6: Some Pastoral Perspectives

The first 2/3 of this chapter discusses a bunch of problems such as illness of a spouse or communication breakdown that can arise in marriage 1 by 1. The Pope gives good but fairly general advice that I hope any good priest would. I won’t quote each one: if you are dealing with a specific issue, read the first line of paragraphs in this chapter till you find your issue.

200: “Christian families, by the grace of the sacrament of matrimony, are the principal agents of the family apostolate, above all through ‘their joy-filled witness as domestic churches.’” (quoting: Relatio Synodi 2014, 30.)

Paragraph 204 talks about the importance of lay professionals assisting the Church’s ministry to marriage & the family through their experience & expertise.

206: “Chastity proves invaluable for the genuine growth of love between persons.”

212 encourages fiancés to have the courage to be different & go forward with a small marriage celebration rather than postpone the marriage for a big party.

219: “I recall an old saying: still water becomes stagnant and good for nothing. If, in the first years of marriage, a couple’s experience of love grows stagnant, it loses the very excitement that should be its propelling force. Young love needs to keep dancing towards the future with immense hope.”

221: Francis encourages realism: “Among the causes of broken marriages are unduly high expectations about conjugal life.”

227: “We pastors have to encourage families to grow in faith. This means encouraging frequent confession, spiritual direction and occasional retreats. It also means encouraging family prayer during the week, since ‘the family that prays together stays together.’”

230 says that the Church needs to help couples return fully to practicing their faith when they come for their kids’ sacraments.

234: In marriage, “Crises need to be faced together.”

234: “Communication [especially in marriage] is an art learned in moments of peace in order to be practised in moments of difficulty.”

The Church needs to minister to the divorced, especially those who were unjustly separated or abandoned or sought it after unjust treatment by their spouse.

242: “Respect needs to be shown especially for the sufferings of those who have unjustly endured separation, divorce or abandonment, or those who have been forced by maltreatment from a husband or a wife to interrupt their life together.” (quoting: Relatio Synodi 2014, 47.)

242: “Divorced people who have not remarried, and often bear witness to marital fidelity, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life.” (quoting: Relatio Synodi 2014, 50.)

243: “The divorced who have entered a new union should be made to feel part of the Church. ‘They are not excommunicated.’”

Note how the Eucharist is mentioned explicitly here when talking about those who are living celibate post-divorce but not talking about the divorced and remarried

245 notes that in separation & divorce the biggest victims are often children, who are always innocent. In divorce & separation proceedings, “The good of the children should be the primary concern… Never ever, take your child hostage! You separated for many problems and reasons. Life gave you this trial, but your children should not have to bear the burden of this separation or be used as hostages against the other spouse.”

247 reaffirms the current norms for Communion for Christian but non-Catholic spouses.

250: Regarding persons who experience same-sex attraction Francis reaffirms 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (published in 1992 under John Paul II’s authority) against unjust discrimination. “We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided.’”

251: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” This is particularly forceful language that has been ignored for the most part in the media.

7: Towards a Better Education of Children

This chapter is short and focused on raising children properly. It will not be quoted much in the media, except maybe out of context to further agendas unrelated to educating children in the faith. Nonetheless, it has some important lessons about teaching hope to children and leading them to a self-giving love with others.

259: “Parents always influence the moral development of their children, for better or for worse. It follows that they should take up this essential role and carry it out consciously, enthusiastically, reasonably and appropriately.”

Paragraph 261 observes the dangers of a certain over-parenting or “helicopter parenting”: “Obsession, however, is not education. We cannot control every situation that a child may experience… If parents are obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements, they will seek only to dominate space. But this is no way to educate, strengthen and prepare their children to face challenges.”

266: On a practical note, Francis notes that children need to learn “Please”, “Thank you”, and “Sorry” if they want others to see their good disposition.

267: “Freedom is something magnificent, yet it can also be dissipated and lost. Moral education has to do with cultivating freedom.”

270: “It is important that discipline [of children] not lead to discouragement, but be instead a stimulus to further progress.”

Paragraph 271 indicates that moral education asks children a proportionate amount of sacrifice so they learn and grow rather than resenting authority.

273: “A person may clearly and willingly desire something evil, but do so as the result of an irresistible passion or a poor upbringing.” This may seem to grant permission to do anything but refers to the person’s conscience where they are unaware that a certain thing is a sin. We need to raise children so this doesn’t happen.

279: “When children are made to feel that only their parents can be trusted, this hinders an adequate process of socialization and growth in affective maturity.”

280: We need “‘a positive and prudent sex education’ to be imparted to children and adolescents ‘as they grow older.’” (quoting: Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on Christian Education Gravissimum Educationis, 1.)

283: “Frequently, sex education deals primarily with “protection” through the practice of “safe sex”. Such expressions convey a negative attitude towards the natural procreative finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be protected against. This way of thinking promotes narcissism and aggressivity in place of acceptance.”

285: “Sex education should also include respect and appreciation for differences, as a way of helping the young to overcome their self-absorption and to be open and accepting of others.”

286: “The configuration of our own mode of being, whether as male or female, is not simply the result of biological or genetic factors, but of multiple elements… It is true that we cannot separate the masculine and the feminine from God’s work of creation, which is prior to all our decisions and experiences, and where biological elements exist which are impossible to ignore.” Francis uses this to address “machismo”: “Taking on domestic chores or some aspects of raising children does not make him any less masculine or imply failure, irresponsibility or cause for shame.”

287: “Raising children calls for an orderly process of handing on the faith… the home must continue to be the place where we learn to appreciate the meaning and beauty of the faith, to pray and to serve our neighbour.”

288: “Education in the faith has to adapt to each child.” I think this goes beyond just updating CCD materials to also looking at varied ways children learn including things like Myers-Briggs and special challenges like Autistic children who process things differently.

8: Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness

This chapter deals with the Church’s outreach to the weak or those who have fallen in a particular way. It is the most controversial chapter with people interpreting it in ways that go beyond and even at times against the text. I will try to stick as close to the text as possible while still summarizing to avoid misunderstanding what Francis wants to say which follows directly from what John Paul II would say.

291: “Although the Church realizes that any breach of the marriage bond ‘is against the will of God,’ she is also ‘conscious of the frailty of many of her children.’” (quoting: Relatio Synodi 2014, 24.)

Paragraph 292 gives a great definition of marriage: “Christian marriage, as a reflection of the union between Christ and his Church, is fully realized in the union between a man and a woman who give themselves to each other in a free, faithful and exclusive love, who belong to each other until death and are open to the transmission of life, and are consecrated by the sacrament, which grants them the grace to become a domestic church and a leaven of new life for society. Some forms of union radically contradict this ideal, while others realize it in at least a partial and analogous way.”

Paragraph 293 says that the Church should minister pastorally to those cohabitating with the view to an eventual marriage.

Paragraph 294 mentions the problems of poverty causing de facto unions because the price of the wedding party is too high and proposes some possible solutions.

295: The law of gradualness proposed by John Paul II: “This is not a ‘gradualness of law’ but rather a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciate, or fully carry out the objective demands of the law.”

296: “The Church’s way… has always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement… The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for ever; it is to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart… For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous.” The line about “not to condemn anyone for ever” refers to earthly condemnation & is not negating Hell’s existence. (quoting: Homily at Mass Celebrated with the New Cardinals (15 February 2015): AAS 107 (2015), 257.)

297: “If someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something which separates from the community. Such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion.”

Paragraph 298 follows John Paul II in admitting that “2nd marriages” can morally continue for reasons like bringing up children but should be celibate. Celibacy is not mentioned by Francis but his repeated references back to Familiaris Consortio indicate it where JP2 says this explicitly.

Paragraph 298 also mentions that individuals in “2nd marriages” could think internally their 1st marriages were invalid but gives no pastoral indication based on this.

299: “The baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal. The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral care, a care which would allow them not only to realize that they belong to the Church as the body of Christ, but also to know that they can have a joyful and fruitful experience in it.” (quoting: Relatio Finalis 2015, 84.)

Paragraph 300 explicitly states the document is not changing universal rules: “Neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases.”

After divorce, paragraph 300 suggests that spouses should reflect on how they handled the whole marriage & break up, “A sincere reflection can strengthen trust in the mercy of God which is not denied anyone.” (quoting: Relatio Finalis 2015, 85.)

300: “Given that gradualness is not in the law itself, this discernment [regarding irregular 2nd unions] can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church.”

The first half of paragraph 301 explains cases where moral imputability or responsibility is lessened due to mitigating factors. The second half 301 at first seems confusing but is just a reiteration of the first half once we read it in context.

305: “A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives.” This refers to an overly negative moral theology that looks to condemnation over mercy.

In 305, Francis quotes the International Theological Commission explaining how natural law is not an a priori set of rules but objective inspiration for personal decisions.

305: “It is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.” This refers to people who live in a state of sin (like cohabitation or a civil non-sacramental marriage) without realizing that what they do is sinful.

Paragraph 306 says we should always follow the path of charity and invitation when dealing with those living in objective sin.

307: “In no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur.”

307: “Young people who are baptized should be encouraged to understand that the sacrament of marriage can enrich their prospects of love and that they can be sustained by the grace of Christ in the sacrament and by the possibility of participating fully in the life of the Church.” (quoting: Relatio Synodi 2014, 26.)

It is worth noting that Francis using “participating fully” for young people considering marriage in paragraph 307, while he refers to the divorced and civilly remarried only being “fully integrated” or “participating” in the Church, indicating he realizes there are some limitations on their full participation.

Paragraph 308 points out the need to accompany individuals in irregular situations, helping them grow, making room for God’s mercy.

310: “Mercy is not only the working of the Father; it becomes a criterion for knowing who his true children are. In a word, we are called to show mercy because mercy was first shown to us.” (quoting: Bull Misericordiae Vultus (11 April 2015), 9: AAS 107 (2015): 405.)

311: “Mercy does not exclude justice and truth, but first and foremost we have to say that mercy is the fullness of justice and the most radiant manifestation of God’s truth.”

9: The Spirituality of Marriage and the Family

This chapter sums up the whole document in a spirituality of the family. The main goal is realizing the presence of God in family and praying together to him.

315: “The Lord’s presence dwells in real and concrete families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes.”

315: “The spirituality of family love is made up of thousands of small but real gestures.”

317: “If a family is centred on Christ, he will unify and illumine its entire life.”

318: “Family prayer is a special way of expressing and strengthening this paschal faith.”

320: “No one but God can presume to take over the deepest and most personal core of the loved one; he alone can be the ultimate centre of their life.”

322: “All family life is a “shepherding” in mercy. Each of us, by our love and care, leaves a mark on the life of others.”

325: “The teaching of the Master… on marriage is set – and not by chance – in the context of the ultimate and definitive dimension of our human existence.”

That’s it.

UPDATE: If you want to know how to read this without spin, I suggest reading my blog on the hermeneutic of continuity vs the hermeneutic of suspicion.

Note on republishing:

Unmodified: just give me credit, pay me the usual freelancer amount if you pay, and send me a link via my contact page.

Modified: Contact me and let’s work together.


Mar 22

Rethinking College Athletics…

While college tuitions skyrocket, many Division 1 colleges lose millions of dollars on their sports programs, leaving students to shoulder the losses and rack up debt. Brave New Films has the scoop.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Here’s a story on how students often end up subsidizing athletic programs up to $5,700 over 4 years. Obviously, at popular schools the money goes the other way – I can only imagine what Ohio State makes money given how much they make on TV, merchandise, etc. A big issue for me was that a college scholarship is below what players make in junior leagues in other sports around the world, and student athletes at top schools are really just athletes and not much of students.
To me, the system used for minor hockey always made more sense: towns that are a little too small for pro teams, or cities with pro teams that want to fill the stadium more nights of the year, sponsor a junior team in a league with age restrictions. The students are paid, not huge salaries but enough to live on, and then go to college on their own if they don’t get on a pro team. This way they make them sustainable and they don’t have “students” who at the big schools barely study anyways.
Keeping lower level college atheletics is a good idea because they build school pride and help students stay healthy – but I’m looking more at a model similar to the current model for Div III (no scholarships, coaches making an average salary for the town rather than far above the average, etc.).

Mar 15

Body-Positive Catholicism

I was a nerd, not a jock, a little flabby but not obese, interested in the brain more than the body, catching my breath after a few flights of stairs, thinking this was the way to live Catholicism. I saw the problem with society’s ideal model: a self-starvation woman with liposuction, plastic surgery, a facelift, make up and airbrushing; a steroid-enhanced man, dehydrated, in a constant state of flexing, and chemically tanned. I rejected that image. I chose to be body-positive. Or did I?

In hindsight, I think I fell into the cultural trap, even in trying to reject it, rather than following a Christian body-positive view.

As a boy I enjoyed sports like anyone else but being uncoordinated, I never really succeeded in them. I was one of the last boys chosen in sports: beyond lacking coordination, I couldn’t do a push-up. What was left for me except walk away and focus on where I could succeed? That was becoming a lazy but moderately successful engineering student. My body seemed like something I just had to drag around so I can do the real work of the mind and the soul.

Read the rest on Catholic Stand.

Feb 10

Pro-Life or Social Justice: a False Catholic Dichotomy

Right after the March for Life, the USCCB organized the Catholic Social Ministries Gathering. As one of the few who attended both events, I saw many people who were both pro-life and pro-social justice but I also saw a false dichotomy between the two in some. Unfortunately, some at the March for Life show inadequate care for the poor and some who help organize the Church’s ministry to the poor have inadequate concern for the unborn.

It is great when we see those who do both. For example, many homes for unwed mothers help a woman avoid pregnancy while helping her break free from the cycle of poverty. Many times the care given by workers at a charity will mean they are the first people a woman goes to with an undesired pregnancy and they can direct her to save the baby.

Nonetheless, every election cycle it seems certain Catholics will use their faith to promote either of the two main political parties and denigrate the other. I remember a lady at daily Mass who proudly sported a bumper sticker of a notoriously pro-abortion politician knowing this stance because she thought he would help the poor better. (Other Catholics had legitimate disagreement on his economic policies so they weren’t that much more radically Catholic.) I remember talking to a Catholic businessman who seems to think we can let the poor fend for themselves.

Read the rest on Catholic Stand.

Jan 12

Five Tips for Catholic Blogging and Social Media

So, you’re excited about your faith and want to share it. You want to evangelize! You realize that much of the world has moved online and fear that will be a great place to share it. But how?

I’ve seen everything. I saw a Twitter account with fewer than 100 followers claiming to be at the forefront of social media evangelization. On the other hand, Common Catholic Girl told me that she started simply as a way to express her Catholicism, which her friends at Auburn didn’t understand. She is now one of the strongest Catholic voices evangelizing young people on Twitter.

Before I get into the five tips, I want to make a note about the term evangelization. I will use evangelization in the broad sense to include both those who bring people into the Church and those who help Church members deepen their relationships with Jesus. I think we need both types. A mystical blog like “St. John of the Cross Today” will help Catholics deepen their prayer life. “The Over-Caffeinated Housewife” might draw a lot of moms in who are not Catholic, and then they begin considering the faith from how this mom weaves her faith and life together.

Read the rest on Catholic Stand.

Dec 16

Abba or Allah: 2 Views of the 1 God

I have always loved science: when most boys said they wanted to be policemen, I wanted to be a paleontologist and study dinosaurs. Now as a priest, I still enjoy looking at science as a sign of God’s beautiful work in the world. Looking for an Islamic understanding of natural science, I came across a few lines from Al-Ghazali, possibly the most influential Muslim after Mohammed:

“Natural sciences, some of which go against sharee’ah, Islam and truth, so it is ignorance, not knowledge that may be mentioned alongside the other branches of knowledge… there is no need for the study of nature.”

These divergent views on science illustrate one difference in how Muslims and Christians view God. We worship the same God but that doesn’t mean we understand him the same way. Obviously, Muslims and Jews believe in a monotheistic but not a Trinitarian God. Since God is the source of all meaning, how we understand God affects how we understand everything. Recent news stories have compared the two faiths with regard to terrorism, Syrian refugees, and obeying American laws, so I think it appropriate to explain the fundamental difference in how the two religions understand God.

Read the rest on Catholic Stand.

Dec 04

Robert Lewis Dear Isn’t Pro-Life (Pro-Life = Pro-ALL-Life)

Last Saturday, Robert Lewis Dear went into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and committed an anti-life crime. He killed 3 people and injured 9 more with his gun. His actions were the very antithesis of everything the name “pro-life” stands for: he was killing people intentionally, violently and without justification, at least according to all reports.

Unfortunately, many in the media called him a “pro-life shooter.” I can’t think of a greater oxymoron. If you are opening fire indiscriminately, you are not pro-life. There may have been media bias, but this could also be caused by a lack of information on the media’s part. When most people hear the words “pro-life,” they immediately, and rightly, think of those who oppose abortion. This man seemed to be against abortion – he reportedly said “No more baby parts” – yet he was pro-death in other ways. Plus the media could have read a few people claiming to be “pro-life” (but were not) who tweeted things that could be construed as support like: “Look on the bright side, think about how many babies weren’t aborted today,” or “People think this is so horrendous because they don’t realize how horrendous the things that happen there every day are.”

Read the rest on Catholic Stand

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